Travel Guide

Brisbane to Cairns road trip itinerary

Keep the travel bug at bay with one of Australia’s greatest road trips along the east coast from Brisbane to Cairns for the first time. Queensland is arguably the most beautiful state in Australia, blessed with world heritage rainforest, coral reefs, the world’s largest sand islands, incredible wildlife encounters and outback experiences.

So pack your bags, fill up the tank of your campervan and hit the road because there is a vast array of things to do in Queensland. We’ve put together an itinerary that will take you from Brisbane to Cairns in 10 days and fill your road trip with everlasting memories and experiences made possible by Experience Oz.

Getting ready for your Brisbane to Cairns road trip

First things first, you’ll need a comfortable vehicle and a campervan is a great solution for solving your accommodation, dining and transport costs. There are so many campervans rentals places at your disposal here in Brisbane. For those who are on a budget we recommend looking at Jucy Car Rentals or Hippie Campervans and book their modified vans that are surprisingly spacious and come with all the essentials. Their vans include a small fridge, a small cooking area with all utensils provided and a table and chair that can be converted into bedding in the evenings. The vehicles are clean, good quality and some of their vehicles are even custom-made so you can be sure for a comfortable travel experience.

If you want to travel in style then you can splurge and go for a larger vehicle with kitchen facilities and even a bathroom and shower. Apollo Motorhomes have a variety of vehicles to suit any budget and offer a stylish ride and convenience. The benefit here is that you’ll have a bathroom and shower wherever you go instead of relying on caravan parks and road stops on your travels.

Day 1: Time to hit the road & rxplore the Sunshine Coast

With your keys in hand, it’s time to kick off your road trip with a journey north to the Sunshine Coast. Your first stop is less than two hours from Brisbane and you could easily spend your entire week here with so many things to do in the Sunshine Coast. It’s not all beaches here though. You’ll find lush rainforests in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland or quaint mountain villages at Montville and Maleny all with stunning views of the Glass House Mountains.

Noosa is the culinary capital and Hastings Street is the place to see and be seen. The precinct is conveniently located steps within Main Beach and the Noosa National Park which is a great place for a dip in the ocean or a gentle walk in the forest, particularly, if you have come to Queensland to thaw out from the cold winter down south.

For nature lovers, we highly recommend a cruise or kayak through the Noosa Everglades; only one of two everglades in the world. The untouched wilderness offers a different perspective to the bustling streets of Noosa and an experience we recommend you try for the first time on the Sunshine Coast.

Noosa is a family friendly region with popular Sunshine Coast attractions including Australia Zoo, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast and Aussie World or take it easy with a gentle Mooloolaba Seafood Lunch Cruise.

Stay: Big4 Ingenia Holidays Noosa

Enjoy the best of both worlds here. You can book a power or unpowered site with an ensuite so if you are without a bathroom, you can park your motorhome beside an ensuite bathroom for the night. Prices start from $32 per night.

Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Hervey Bay

Drive Time: 2 hours

Hervey Bay is the gateway to Fraser Island and home to glorious Humpback Whales during the winter months. No Queensland road trip could be complete without stopping in at this regional town. Hervey Bay is THE place to go whale watching as the sheltered bay create a natural environment for the whales to birth and nurture their young before they make the trek back down south to Antarctica. There is a lot of choices too with full-day and half-day Hervey Bay whale watching cruises on offer. The Hervey Bay whale watching season runs from July to November. If you take this road trip outside of whale watching season then we recommend you spend an extra day on Fraser Island.

Stay: Fraser Coast Top Tourist Park

While a little more pricey at $37 per night compared to other caravan parks, the amenities cannot be beaten. From a mineral pool and spa, well-equipped laundry and amenities, a large recreation room and a camp kitchen that features a pizza oven.

Day 3: Hervey Bay to Fraser Island

Today, you will join a Fraser Island tour from Hervey Bay. As the largest sand island in the world, your campervan simply won’t cut it on the island as there are no paved roads. A guided tour of Fraser Island is the best way to tick off all the highlights of the island including Lake Mckenzie, Central Station rainforest, the coloured sands, Maheno Shipwrecks, Indian Head and many more incredible sights. This jam-packed tour squeezes a lot into one day, however, if you visit outside of whale watching season then we recommend you stretch out your time with a two day Fraser Island tour. You won’t regret it as you’ll see a lot more of the island at a more relaxed pace and the overnight adventure includes share accommodation at Eurong Beach Resort plus most meals.

Stay: Fraser Coast Top Tourist Park

Day 4: Fraser Island to 1770 via Bundaberg

Drive time: 3 hours

A short drive up the highway will bring you to Bundaberg, the home of the world-famous rum distillery and gorgeous turtles that visit Mon Repos Beach every year. Join a Bundaberg Rum Distillery Tour and see first-hand how these delicious beverages are brought to life. You may even taste a few afterwards. Stop by the cafe for a bite or two before getting back on the road again. Your 90-minute journey will take you to the picturesque coastal village, Town of 1770 where you will spend the evening.

The charming town gets its name to commemorate the landing of James Cook in Queensland and is located by the Coral Sea. The town boasts untouched national parks, uncrowded beaches and a quick jaunt to Lady Musgrave Island, a pristine location in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Stay: Captain Cook Holiday Village

This pet-friendly caravan park is set amongst native bushland and just a short walk from the beach. You can find a caravan site to suit your needs starting from $32 per night. There are plenty of facilities too including a BBQ kitchen, showers, laundry, playgrounds, swimming pools and a general store.

Day 5: 1770 to Lady Musgrave Island

Discover a magical underwater world with a day cruise to Lady Musgrave Island. The pristine coral cay is surrounded by a lagoon filled with wildlife and beautiful coral reefs and a regular hangout for sea turtles. The full-day trip to Lady Musgrave Island includes a glass-bottom boat tour, snorkelling equipment and a guided island nature walk. You don’t want to miss out on this tour.

Stay: Captain Cook Holiday Village

Day 6: Lady Musgrave Island to Rockhampton & Capricorn Caves

Drive Time: Approx 6 hours

Make sure you get an early night because today there will be a lot of driving but you’ll be rewarded with a steakhouse lunch and a tour of the Capricorn Caves, north of Rockhampton. The town straddles the Tropic of Capricorn and is Australia’s beef capital. There is even a Brahman to greet you as you drive into town. Stretch your legs with a stroll down Quay Street to look at the heritage-listed buildings and the rumoured haunted Criterion Hotel. If you want to get a taste of the famous beef then head to the Great Western Hotel for lunch or dinner. The site is also the venue for a bit of rodeo action which normally takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings.

After lunch, it’s time to get back into the campervan for a guided tour of the Capricorn Caves. The limestone caves are open to the public on a guided tour or for the more adventurous, a rock climbing and abseiling adventure. At just $30, the Capricorn Caves is a budget-friendly experience and something that everyone will find interesting. Don’t linger too long though, you still have a three-hour drive before you reach Cape Hillsborough for the evening.

Stay: Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park

This is a great place, a little bit of the beaten track surrounded by nature. Your stay here will give you a bit of peace and tranquillity and the location is perfect for a breathtaking beach sunrise and unique animal encounter in the morning.

Day 7: Rockhampton to Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays

Breakfast with the kangaroos and wallabies is on the cards this morning at Cape Hillsborough Beach. This is a bucket list experience you’ll never forget as the sun begins to rise on a new day and the Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Wallabies come out and start foraging for food. These curious animals aren’t dangerous but we still suggest you keep your distance and admire from afar.

Today, you have a short drive to Airlie Beach where you can enjoy a Whitsundays Ocean Rafting experience. Amp up the excitement on a high-speed adventure to Whitehaven Beach. You’ll get to snorkel secluded coral reefs, spend some time on Australia’s favourite beach and even join a guided walk through the national park to the Hill Inlet overlooking Whitsunday Island. This is the best Whitsunday Island cruise to do if you are short on time and you’ll leave feeling like you have seen quite a lot in a day.

Stay: Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

Featuring a waterpark, animal park, giant jumping pillows, mini-golf, tennis courts, outdoor cinemas and more here all set on 26 acres of tropical gardens. Hook up your campervan to a powered site or rough it on an unpowered site. There are even ensuite powered sites so you can enjoy exclusive access to your own shower and toilet throughout the evening.

Day 8: Airlie Beach to Townsville

Drive Time: 3 hours

Next up on your road trip to Cairns is Townsville, home of the North Queensland Cowboys for those of you that are football fans. The region is amongst a backdrop of pink granite stone called Castle Hill. Take a walk or scenic drive up the top for spectacular views of Townsville and out to the Coral Sea. Magnetic Island is approximately half-hour via ferry so why not park the car and head over to the island for the day or overnight. The choice is yours. While here you can settle in at a bed and breakfast and head out for a snorkel or return to Townsville and stay at a local caravan park.

Day 9: Townsville to Cairns

Drive Time: 4-5 Hours

This is your final driving day as you begin to approach Cairns but take it easy with a scenic drive and picnic stop at Paronella Park. Featuring beautiful gardens and the ruins of a castle now covered in stunning tranquil rainforest, the dreams of Jose Paronella will leave you in awe. While you are in the area, stop by the Millaa Millaa Falls - the most photographed waterfall in Australia, located in the Atherton Tablelands as well as the charming town of Mission Beach. By the days end, you will arrive in Cairns. Hooray!

Stay: NRMA Cairns Holiday Park

If you want to be a part of the action, then we recommend the NRMA Cairns Holiday Park. You’ll be able to walk to restaurants, bars and even the cruise terminal with day tours to the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 10: Cairns (via Mission Beach)

It may be your final day of the road trio but don’t think for a second that the holiday ends when you arrive in Cairns. Far North Queensland is a tropical paradise with many hidden gems to be uncovered. Home of the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and The Daintree Rainforest, there are so many things to do in Cairns. If you have an extra few days, we strongly recommend you stretch this itinerary out to 14 days so you can truly appreciate the natural wonders on offer here in Far North Queensland.

To learn more about the wonderful creatures of the reef and rainforest we suggest you pay a visit to the Cairns Aquarium. The aquarium is filled with curious sea critters and is a great way to learn about the marine life before you join a Cairns reef tour. Loaded up with all that newly acquired knowledge, you will have fun pointing out all the different species of fish and sea turtles during a snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so there are a variety of reef and island tours that depart daily from the Reef Fleet Terminal. Green Island and Fitzroy Island are conveniently located close to Cairns with Fitzroy Island ferry transfers and Green Island tours available daily. Back on the mainland, a Kuranda Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway tour is an extraordinary experience that will have you soaring above the rainforest, travelling past waterfalls and admiring views of the Coral Sea from up above. For more Cairns travel inspiration, view our full catalogue of Cairns tours and attractions to cap off your Queensland road trip.

There are so many things to do in Queensland but this road trip itinerary will help you tick off the best things to do in 10 days. From trips to the Great Barrier Reef to breakfast with the wallabies and journeys through Australia’s only everglades- there are extraordinary experiences on offer in Queensland.

Experience Oz

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